Mar 20, 2009
It’s time to take a look at the WRs for keeper leagues. This position is tough because there’s always a huge drop-off after the true studs, and players can quickly go from being very productive to fantasy afterthoughts. That said I would place a premium on the studs at the position, especially the best of the best.
When we’re talking about the best of the best at WR, we’re talking about guys like
Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne, and Calvin Johnson. These guys are young, in mostly good situations, and are clearly elite, if not dominant. I’d view keeping him as a top priority, and I’d only keep a handful of RBs over them.
There’s nothing wrong with the next tier of top receivers, and I also view them a studs: Greg Jennings, Roddy White, Steve Smith, Anquan Boldin, Braylon Edwards, Marques Colston, Brandon Marshall, Dwayne Bowe, Randy Moss, and Terrell Owens. These guys aren’t all perfect, like Edward for example, but they are either young and in good situations (Jennings, White, Colston, Marshall) or are proven all-time greats who should produce at least 1-2 more years (Smith, Moss, and Owens). Bowe should be in this group, even though he’s not clearly a must-have. He’s young, could be stud-like, and his situation looks promising.
After these guys you’re already dealing with some guys who would be shaky keepers in leagues that keep only 2-3 players, but in larger leagues, they are the next best things. Again, these guys are far from perfect, which makes the players mentioned above look more desirable, but these guys are viable: Roy Williams, Wes Welker, Santonio Holmes, Lee Evans, Anthony Gonzalez, Plaxico Burress, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Bernard Berrian, Chad Johnson, Eddie Royal, Vincent Jackson, Antonio Bryant. How you rank these guy depends on your team needs, expectations, and also your scoring system. Welker, for example, is money in a PPR league, and a must-have. Holmes, Evans, Gonzalez, Royal, and Jackson are young, so they look like strong long-term options. Williams is the #1 now in Dallas, so you have to be encouraged, even though he’s erratic and a little shaky. Burress’ status is up in the air, of course, while guys like TJH, Berrian, and Johnson aren’t standing out now as must-haves, but should be worth hanging on to if possible.
The deeper we go down the list, the more your expectations and league setup needs to be considered. For example, if you’re content playing for the here and now, then players like Hines Ward, Santana Moss, Laveranues Coles, Torry Holt, Derrick Mason, and Donald Driver are okay choices. All of them should start in 2009 (we’ll see about Holt, though), and they can still produce. Kevin Curtis and Chris Chambers are in this realm as well, but they are a little younger than the other guys in this group. Coles and Mason look like good PPR options, and Driver’s still playing well, and I like his situation.
If you’re looking to go on the younger side, then players like Kevin Walter, Jerricho Cotchery, and Mark Clayton stand out a little as more youthful options who have value now and the potential to be relevant for 3+ years. I like Walter a lot, and I think Clayton will be more than fine with Joe Flacco and his big arm on his side. Cotchery’s no spring chicken, but he’s under 30 and should be active as his team’s only viable starter.
If you’re more inclined to place an even higher priority on youth, then Donnie Avery, Devin Hester, and DeSean Jackson look attractive. Avery’s a playmaker who is clearly his team’s #1, and I like Hester’s development and think he could be a strong #2 fantasy wideout for years to come, provided his team’s QB play is acceptable. Jackson’s never going to be a stud, and his attitude could get in his way at some point (he’s very cocky), but he’ll be a large part of what they do in Philly, and they throw the ball in Philly more than anything else.
We’re already about 40 deep at the position, and at this point I would likely focus on youth and upside potential, and there are a lot of guys in this group who fit the part. If you’re looking to go young for the future, then look at Steve Breaston, Jordy Nelson, Devin Thomas, and Josh Morgan. Breaston would need Boldin to depart, however. I LOVE Nelson and think he’ll be very good, but not until 2010 most likely. I don’t think Morgan is truly special because he’s not a burner and his hands are shaky, but he’s definitely someone who could develop into a nice #2 fantasy wideout, as a key part of their passing game. Thomas is very intriguing. Of all the receivers drafted in 2008, he best projects as a “#1 NFL WR,” so he’s someone to consider getting now. He hasn’t shown enough to assume he’ll bust out in 2009, but by 2010 he could be ready and he has the size and speed to excel. I view Thomas kind of like I view RB Rashard Mendenhall. If you’re willing to be patient, you could have a stud on your hands in 1-2 years.
To back up a moment, Lance Moore and Ted Ginn are young and should play a lot, so they are also viable. But we’ll see if Moore is re-signed by the Saints, and I haven’t seen enough from Ginn. He’s very talented, so worth a shot, but he might not be better than a slot receiver, and they have a pretty good one in Miami in Davone Bess.
Guys like Robert Meachem, Sidney Rice, and Domenik Hixon are also young, but they have some issues. Meachem has all the talent, but he’s been too slow off the mark, and that the team re-signed the speedy Devery Henderson may not bode well for him in ’09. If they don’t re-sign Moore, then I’d feel better. But if Moore and Henderson are in their long-term plans, that’s not good for Meachem. Rice I do likely, but he’s ultimately only a #2 NFL receiver, and I’m not sure he’s good enough to be a good one. Maybe if he played opposite a beast-like #1, but he doesn’t. Still, this deep, he’s someone to look at because as of right now he’s the #2 in Minnesota, and he should be much healthier than he was in ’08. As for Hixon, I do like him and think he’s viable, but his hands were suspect this past year, and his future role and potential is a little up in the air due to that and the situation with Burress.
Next up, there are some younger guys who have a shot to help you, but I’m not exactly enamored with any of them. Players like Nate Washington, Mark Bradley, Greg Camarillo, and Justin Gage are right now starters, so they are viable in larger leagues. I do like Camarillo a lot in a PPR league, but I’m not sure he’ll be relevant in a few years. But in a PPR league, he’s worthy of a little more love than I’m giving him here.
There are some older players this deep who have some value, but not much upside, and their roles are a little up in the air for even the next 1-2 years. Nate Burleson
Marvin Harrison, Deion Branch, Patrick Crayton, Javon Walker, Bryant Johnson, Michael Jenkins, Jerry Porter, Joey Galloway, and Bobby Engram lead the list.
But this deep, I’d rather target the younger guys with the upside potential, and there are a few of them: Mike Walker, Demetrius Williams, Brandon Jones, Davone Bess, Limas Sweed, Malcolm Kelly, Miles Austin, Marcus Smith, Malcom Floyd, and Jerome Simpson stand out. Walker could be the #1 in Jacksonville this year, actually, and while he’s not a burner, he looks solid in every other area. Willliams could still (finally) come through and emerge as a deadly downfield threat for QB Joe Flacco. Bess is a viable guy in a PPR league. Jones is a pretty good player, and now he’s a start in SF. Sweed is a work in progress, but he could still be the eventual replacement for Ward in Pittsburgh. Kelly’s a physical possession receiver who should eventually be the #2 in Washington. Austin may start in Dallas alongside Roy Williams. Smith is a dark horse starter in Baltimore, kind of an Anquan Boldin type, and Floyd is a big man who can run, so he may move on to a new team soon and start. Simpson’s been a big disappointment, but he could still replace Chad Johnson in Cincy.
We’re about 70 deep now at the position, so you obviously can’t expect much from the rest of the players listed below. But if you’re looking for depth or legit prospect in a larger keeper or dynasty league, there are some guys. It’s just when digging this deep to know which players at least have a chance to help you.
Andre Caldwell, for example may start in Cincy soon, and in fact he’s ahead of Simpson right now (although not as talented). Keenan Burton could be a factor in S. Louis, where they are hurting at the position. Chaz Schilens is someone the Raiders like, and Will Franklin could eventually be the #2 in KC. Johnny Lee Higgins is raw, but he did make some big play for the Raiders last year and is worthy this deep. Steve Johnson is a bigger receiver who saw the field for the Bills last year. And at some point, guys like Dexter Jackson (TB), Jacoby Jones (Hou), Mario Manningham (NYG), and Roy Hall (Ind) could see the field a lot for their teams. I’m not a big James Hardy fan, and T.O. in Buffalo hurts him, but he’s in the mix, as is Jason Hill, who could see more time in SF if Morgan and/or Jones disappoint for the Niners. He’s been a bust so far, but I did actually see Dwayne Jarret make a few plays for the Panthers last year, so he’s not totally a lost cause.
Otherwise, we’re looking at a ton of veteran guys who really don’t excite me, but they at least are worthy of being mentioned. Matt Jones, D.J. Hackett, Chris Henry, Reggie Williams, Reggie Brown, Devery Henderson, Michael Clayton, and Brandon Lloyd fit the bill. Jones’ career is up on the air, but he could find another home if he wants it, while Hackett does have the talent to be a solid #2, but his career has taken a turn for the worse. I actually kind of like Clayton to surprise a little the next 1-2 years, but he’s done nothing the last 2-3 years to cause any faith.
Some other options who are a little older than the guys listed above, and can’t be counted on for much more than the next 1-2 years, are Muhsin Muhammad, Amani Toomer, Drew Bennett, Brandon Stokley, Antwaan Randle El, Jabar Gaffney, Andre Davis, Josh Reed, Justin McCareins, and Bobby Wade. Most of these guys do have roles, if not starting jobs, but they don’t conjure up much excitement.
There are some other younger players, but they’re either major reaches, or will have only a complementary role these next few years, so they don’t have too much value. But I do like Steve Smith, Harry Douglas, Chansi Stuckey, Early Doucet, and Earl Bennett as productive slot guys. Doucet would need Boldin to leave and Breaston to move to the #3 slot, but Doucet is a good fit as a slot guy. And while they are major reaches, Maurice Stovall, Lavelle Hawkins, and Adrian Arrington may still factor into their team’s plans.
Well, that’s over 100 players listed, and that’s enough for now. As the weeks and months go by I will tweak this list and add players who are looking more viable than they do now.